Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Parliamentary Secretary for Environment Fazal Elahi said the government has already planted as many as 18 million saplings across the province and by the time its term ends, K-P will have over one billion new trees.
The plantation, carried out under the Green Growth Initiative (GGI) which was launched in February 2014, aimed to increase forest cover in the province. The campaign has gained infamy due to the tall claims and the seemingly impossible numbers trumpeted by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan.
18m, 19m, 20m…1,000m
Talking to The Express Tribune, the outspoken PTI MPA said the forest department has ratcheted up efforts to fulfil the party supremo’s promise of planting a billion trees in K-P. “Currently 20.3% of K-P is covered in forests while 26% of the total area is rugged and barren.” The MPA said the campaign was the brainchild of leaders who were concerned about the future.
Elahi said that since taking charge over a year ago, he introduced a scientific management policy and formed joint forest committees at the union council level. He said the committees, which include PTI volunteers, were to keep a round-the-clock vigil and report illegal felling of trees. “We have already intensified our crackdown against officers involved in the smuggling of timber. Those found involved will be served exemplary punishment.”
Answering a question about on-ground action, the MPA blamed previous governments’ lack of foresight for not taking the timber mafia to task and allowing it to expand its operations, which resulted in expedited deforestation and losses to the provincial exchequer. “For the first time in Pakistan’s history I suspended two chief conservators of forests in Malakand and Hazara for abysmal performance,” said the lawmaker. So far ,21 smugglers have been arrested in Chitral, Mansehra, Malakand and Upper Dir, he added.
The parliamentary secretary said on his recommendation, the former K-P chief secretary approved a project for planting trees along river and canal banks for which Rs22 billion was allotted. Elahi said the government would soon begin constructing small and large hydel and solar power plants, and install solar-powered tube wells on a large scale.
Talking about his own constituency PK-6, Peshawar-VI, the MPA said a 45-kilometre link road has been carpeted while 30 tube wells have also been dug up during his tenure.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.